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The Last Pismo Upgrade
(Brightness Enhancement & Anti-Reflective/Anti-Glare Display Films)

By Norman Shutler
Posted: 4/14/2005



For those of you who are not quite ready to part with your classic G3 FireWire PowerBooks, a.k.a. Pismos, there's now yet another reason (or good excuse) to hang on to them, along with some other vintage PowerBooks, at least for a while longer.

If you've noticed lately (and even if you haven't) that your display isn't as bright as it once was - at five years old, depending on use and excluding the usual exceptions, it's somewhere between 10% to 30% dimmer than when new-then it's time to replace its backlight with a new one.

A new backlight with installation from IDParts, Inc. will cost you $120. While that will certainly put the old shine back on the screen, along with a smile on your face, by itself it's not going to provide you with the kind of brightness that you can obtain from a new PowerBook. But now thanks to the skilled and innovative technicians at http://www.idparts.com/ you needn't suffer the pangs of brightness envy any longer.

Currently for a total cash outlay of $345 (not including shipping charges) you can not only have a brand new backlight installed in your Pismo, bringing it back up to specs, but you can also take advantage of the newest display technology, a remarkable BEF & AR/AG film combo upgrade (more on the meaning of that shortly) that will provide it with a stunning increase in brightness along with a reduction in reflectivity and glare. (It should be noted at this point that even new PowerBook owners can take advantage of what IDParts has to offer, which is in a nutshell is a remarkable increase in brightness due to the aforesaid technology.)

Now, for those of you who have already invested in a 900MHz G3 processor upgrade from Powerlogix or a 500MHz to 550MHz G4 upgrade from Daystar, Fastmac or NewerTech, (as have my wife and I... and we're loving them) then more likely than not, for you or your spouse this upgrade is a must.

For those of you who simply require a new backlight, (realize it or not that includes most every Pismo owner out there) then the additional cost of these truly outstanding display enhancements are eminently practical in terms of added value, resale appeal and in obtaining an impressive increase in display brightness, not to mention the fact that the upgrade will last the lifetime of your PowerBook.

So how are these remarkable display improvements achieved? Allow me to quote you the information that I received from the technicians at IDParts.com.

    " (BEF) Brightness Enhancement Films are transparent optical films that increase LCD brightness through improved management of the existing light. BEF films focus the light toward the user increasing the on-axis brightness of the display. By combining various BEF films, display brightness can be increased by up to 150% over displays without film while maintaining a broad viewing angle.

    We remove the Standard Manufacture Films from your LCD and Replace them with New B.E.F. Film. This process is what gives your LCD a Significant Light Increase.

    (AR/AG) Anti-Reflective/Anti-Glare Films can decrease surface reflectance of an LCD from 12% to less than 1%. This decrease in surface reflectance makes the LCD more readable in both outdoor and indoor lighting conditions. The use of AR/AG films is great for laptops, tablet PC's, and point of sales terminals where high ambient light can cause viewing difficulty."

I recently purchased another mint condition Pismo on eBay, this one for my wife. Soon thereafter I sent it to Daystar in order to upgrade its 500MHz G3 CPU to a 550MHz G4 (she wants to dabble in Adobe's Photoshop; being AltiVec encoded the app can take full advantage of the G4 upgrade). Mine (a much earlier eBay purchase) received Powerlogix's G3 900MHz processor, which for my needs was the perfect choice.

Curiously my wife's Pismo hadn't seen much use by its previous owner. Upon receiving it I took it to an authorized Apple service center in Oklahoma City to have it checked out. According to David Green, one of ProMac's technicians, it appeared to be in virtually new condition, both inside and out.

For obvious reasons I decided to send IDParts my well used, much dimmer display. An aside here: So imperceptible is the dimming process that I didn't realize just how dim my display had become until my wife and I viewed our two Pismos together at full brightness. I was shocked to discover that it was down by almost 20%. Because of her Pismo's near pristine condition we decided to use it to compare the before and after effects of the films' upgrade once mine was returned to me.

Now, having once been a gullible young fool, let it be known for the record that I've learned to take all hype with a block of salt, so in fact I wasn't expecting all that much of an overall improvement, but I was hoping for enough of one to at least justify the additional cost of the film enhancements.

I instructed IDParts to return my upgraded Pismo's display to me via FedEx overnight delivery, which cost $25, otherwise $18 for 2-day or $12 for ground shipment. The company received my display on the 28th of March. The upgrade was completed and the unit was shipped back to ProMac on the 31st.

When things go wrong that's when you'll quickly learn just how much you can trust in the integrity of a company.

After the films had been installed someone goofed and hadn't given them enough time to properly cure, subsequently the entire process had to be redone. I didn't see the display when it was returned to ProMac in Oklahoma City, but as David Green described it to me in his e-mail, there were a few small bubbles or blisters within one of the display layers. Also the bottom left of the display didn't look uniform to the rest of it. I immediately contacted IDParts about the anomalies.

To their credit IDParts immediately telephoned ProMac and instructed them to repackage the reassembled Pismo (they wanted the entire PowerBook returned to them). The following day, the 1st of April, they sent FedEx out to pick it up. On April 11th, my PowerBook was returned to ProMac and this time the upgraded display screen was in perfect condition. There was no additional expense to me.

In all fairness it's best to remind oneself that mistakes happen, and they can happen to anyone. The fact is, as most of us know, even brand new computers, TVs and other electronic equipment can experience serious problems right out of the box. What's important to remember, particular in this case, is that IDParts unflinching demonstrated their willingness to stand behind both their products and their work 100%! So relax, they've clearly demonstrated their commitment to do the right thing.

The second side-by-side comparison of the Pismo displays took place at ProMac. A little aside at this point. I'm happy to report that ProMac is a company that is comprised of as highly a professional group of Mac specialists as one could hope to find. Suffice to say that they're as knowledgeable as they are competent and as responsive as they are good-natured.

Now, let's get to the upshot of the displays comparison. The A/B results very much surprised me, dare I say all of us. While I was expecting some improvement I most definitely wasn't expecting such a dramatic one.

Bottom line
Was the upgrade in fact worthwhile enough to justify the expense? You better believe it! The brightness control of the enhanced Pismo's display had only to be turned up a notch beyond the halfway mark in order to equal the output of my wife's unmodified display at 100%! Even assuming that her display light had dimmed by 10%, (3% is far more likely as little use as this PowerBook's received) that's still a whopping increase in output due strictly to the film enhancements, and unlike the backlight that dims with time, they're permanent!

Beyond a sheer boost in brightness there's a definite increase in whiteness. When compared to the pristine, snow-white page produced by the films upgrade, the same TextEdit page displayed on my wife's Pismo clearly showed a never-before-noticed yellow tinge to it-that both surprised me and took me aback-that was perceptually disconcerting, if not overtly disagreeable.

Additionally, as David Green pointed out, the films enhancement produced a crispness in presentation that made the text easier to read. That doubtlessly resulted because of the greater contrast between the ultra white background and the black print which also, as I later discovered, lent definition to graphics in various applications and games, helping them to become more pronounced if not in fact more vivid.

The shiny new screen of the enhanced display stood in stark contrast to the dull finish of its unadulterated twin. That fact, however, can work against you if you happen to have all outdoors streaming in from behind you, as do I, in which case the films mirror its reflection to some extent-with the slight rippling effect that can be expected of plastic film-which is annoying despite the application of the anti-glare, anti-reflection layers.

It should be mentioned that there were two tiny pieces of film protruding from between the left edge of the display and the black plastic bezel surrounding it. Although extremely small and easily pushed up flush against the edge of the bezel, they shouldn't have been there.

In all fairness I should mention that the films enhancement process is brand new. The technicians at IDParts are in the last stages of working out the unique set of problems that each brand and/or model laptop brings to the operation. Mine was only the 17th display to receive the films upgrade, and it was the very 1st Pismo display to receive the films enhancement treatment. It having served its purpose as a vintage Apple test bed, I now suspect that the last of the cockups, kinks and oversights relating to this impressive upgrade for Pismos have just been eliminated.

While the end results of the films upgrade are quite demonstrable, the end effect is as always individually subjective, which begs the question: Would I do the upgrade again? Well let me put it to you this way: I would, in a heartbeat! On the other hand my wife has certain reservations and prefers to take the wait and see, side-by-side 30-day approach.

If you're interested in obtaining a new backlight (and doubtlessly you should be) or additionally you wish to augment your display with their striking films enhancement upgrade, you can send your Pismo or its display, not to mention other PowerBooks or their displays, to IDParts, Inc., 1009 Omeide Park, Greensburg, PA 15601-8608. Phone: (724) 838-9588. Fax: (724) 838-9589.
-Norman



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